Give it up. Or not.
Yesterday's post was about Lent, and how I haven't made a deliberate commitment to a spiritual discipline during these several weeks. Bob left the following comment on the blog:
I don't think you can grow on a schedule, it just happens. That's not to say you can't put your self in the right places for growth. I find that growth happens best when we least expect it. I lead a Bible study at church and teach a Sunday school class, sometimes it feels stagnant, just one big routine. Someone new will show up and give fresh perspective and all of a sudden I'm experiencing God anew again from a different angle...
My question for today is to examine the role of a intentional commitment to a spiritual discipline -- a deliberate routine -- as compared to the spontaneous intrusion of grace. Are the two in opposition to each other?
Like Bob, I am a Sunday school teacher, and I have certainly experience what he describes. There are times, when I am teaching, that I see God from an entirely different angle. My "new view" may be triggered by comments made my members of the class I am teaching. I may see something new as I prepare for the lesson. Some of the most amazing revelations of grace occur as I am teaching. There have been times when I have a thought that I have never touched on before, but which arrives, like a gift, as I am speaking.
I do believe that God arrives in our lives with no warning, when he is least expected. Looking at it with a different perspective, though, read this Philip Yancey quote from Prayer:
A rabbi taught that experiences of God can never be planned or achieved. "They are spontaneous moments of grace, almost accidental." His student asked, "Rabbi, if God-realization is just accidental, why do we work so hard doing all these spiritual practices?" The rabbi replied, "To be as accident-prone as possible.
And then this one, from the same book:
I think we can find God more often when we are closer to him. I think we will be soaked in his grace more often when we are standing close to the source. I can understand what Yancey means when he says we need to be spiritual disciplines to become accident prone.
Aha moments catch me be surprise. A sense of gratitude, a ping of compassion. But they catch me, I have learned, only when I am looking for them.
I write this blog. I do it everyday, even though there are times when I would rather not. Some days there is no immediately apparent topic for a post. Some days I have to dig to find the topic. It's a discipline. It is a way that I try to be accident prone.
I think it may be that "routine" work -- something picked up because of Lent -- that I have missed. It doesn't help that I keep getting asked, "So what did you give up for Lent?"
"I've given up answering questions like that!"
Image: Crocuses in our yard. SPRING!